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Captain Harold John Brittain Foster - 1st Essex Regiment


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Brittain Foster

Hi

I am researching the great great Uncle of my husband - Captain Harold John Brittain Foster. He was killed on the 14th April leading X Company on the attach on Monchry when the 1st Essex were trying to take Infantry Hill. I am trying to put together his story as best I can so it is not forgotten. He joined the 9th Bedfordshire and was attached to the 1st Essex (not sure when). He has a medal for Bay of Sulva so after his wedding in July 1915 in Essex I think he must have been one of the men arriving in September to reinforce Gallipoli (?) noted in the war diaries but would  be grateful for any ideas. I think the 1st Essex then went to the Somme and then down to Arras.


Any tips gratefully appreciated - I have been using Find My Past and a have seen his name on Burrows describing the attack on Infantry Hill posted online.

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Hi and welcome to the forum

Have you checked out the Long Long Trail site yet?

Link at top of the forum, lots of info on there.

image.png.5da02f297066849d232c0de01f75307c.png

regards

Jon

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Swinesheadvillage

Hi

 

Likewise, welcome to the forum.

 

Just to give some context for the 14/04/17. CWGC commemorates 188 fatal casualties on that day from the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment. Of those fatalities, only 6 have recorded burials. 

 

Of those 6, one is a special memorial, but one has a grave concentration report with a map reference. He is Pte LeFevre, 3/2229 whose remains were re-interred in Oct 1922 from map reference 51b.0.8.D.1.9. Using the excellent Tmapper website, you can translate this map reference into a trench map and present day location which will hopefully give some indication as to the position where your husband's relative fell.

 

Hope this helps

 

Kind Regards

 

Derek

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Swinesheadvillage

Hi

 

You may also be interested in an enquiry sent by his sister to the ICRC reproduced courtesy of them below:-

 

file front side 

 

Again, hope this helps

 

Kind Regards

 

Derek

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War diary transcription for the 1st Essex at Monchy, map and the relevant pages from Burrows are all available on this old forum thread

Cheers,

Peter

 

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Brittain Foster

Oh wow! Thank you so much for these replies! I had no idea about his sporting prowess, the torpedo attack and am touched by the request from his sister (who was something of a family legend herself) and I know never stopped grieving her brother. Thank you so much and I am going to dig into all these leads straight away!

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Brittain Foster

Any tips on how to search the Army Lists? I have never tried to search them before and they seem .... a bit tricky for a novice! 
 

So the attack on Infantry Hill in April 1917 was part of the First Battle of Scarpe?

 

I think in X company on the Flank it seems they were overwhelmed by the trees at the copse and likely that he was killed there. 
 

Is there a good source for their role in the Somme\Galipoli?

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War diaries for their time at Gallipoli are available on Ancestry.

 

Always worth a search of the forum as there are likely to be lots of threads on the 1st Essex, and a long running one on the loss of the Royal Edward on the 13th August 1915.

That latter date means he wasn't with the 1st Essex for the Battle of Krithia Vineyard.

 

Cheers,

Peter

Edited by PRC
Typo
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Brittain Foster

The Royal Edward makes sense now as he got married in July in Essex and yet I couldn’t understand how he had a medal for Sulva Bay - after he got married he must have been sent to Galipoli on the Prince Edward...

 

 

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Matlock1418
52 minutes ago, Brittain Foster said:

he got married in July in Essex

A bit of an aside = From pension cards at WFA/Fold3 we can see his widow re-married, becoming Mrs. Annie Classina SMART

:-) M

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The Royal Edward sailed from Devonport on the 31st July 1915.

 

The book "Men of Gallipoli"(David & Charles,1988) includes a narrative of the sinking by A.T. Fraser of the Border Regiment. It ends with "Finally the hospital ship SOUDAIN arrived to pick them up in her life-boats, and at 2 o'clock Fraser was safely aboard her after just under five hours in the sea. He remembers that a large number of men lost their false teeth as we were constantly sick in the sea- and these men were sent back to England. We the younger ones, were clothed and kitted and on another ship three days later for Gallipoli.”

 

I suspect surviving officers Foster & Potts were bundled off to Gallipoli in a very similar time frame. Harolds' Medal Index Card just shows his first theatre of war was "Suvla Bay", (not technically a Theatre of War), in August 1915. The other officer is likely to be 2nd Lieutenant Henry Potts of the Bedfordshire Regiment, but his Medal Index Card shows him landing at Gallipoli "Aug - Sept. 1915". Sadly he too would not survive the war - he died of wounds on the 16th October 1916.

 

A. T. Foster is likely to be Corporal 16867 Alexander Traill Foster who would go on to be commissioned in 1918. His Medal Index Card shows he landed at Gallipoli on the 24th August 1915. He may well have gone to Mudros first and been waiting there to be sent on to the Peninsula.

 

Hopefully a check of the Battalion War Diary will confirm when Foster and Potts caught up with the Battalion in the field.

 

2 hours ago, Brittain Foster said:

Any tips on how to search the Army Lists? I have never tried to search them before and they seem .... a bit tricky for a novice! 

 

What sort of thing are you looking for?

 

The April 1917 Monthly Army list for example shows in column 1051 that Lieutenant H.J.B. Foster, Bedfordshire Regiment had seniority from the 24th February 1915 - that was the effective date of his promotion. He was attached to the Essex Regiment and while there he was an Acting Captain with effect from the 7th September 1916.

https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/104052368

 

Hope some of that helps, and a belated welcome to the forum :)

Peter

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Brittain Foster

Thank you everyone - on the Army Lists I am just searching for anything that tells me where he was and when... I still don’t know for instance when he signed up although the London Gazette has a notice of his second Lieutenant appointment of the 4th December 1914 so I know it was before this. 
 

It seems in the Army Lists it is not possible to search by name so is it a case of turning page by page? What can the Army Lists tell us? I am also thinking about how to search because I have two other relatives (paternal side) to do after “Uncle Jack” as he was known... glad his wife married again as I have a book here from Xmas 1917 from “Uncle Jack and Auntie Ann” and in 1918 another book just from Auntie Ann - both books of children’s stories to my husband’s grandmother which is quite sad.

 

Also with the British newspapers (Where the torpedo entry is and where I want to look for his sporting achievements) is this subscription access? Happy to do this but wanted to make sure it is not all on findmypast/ancestry .... 

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9 minutes ago, Brittain Foster said:

I still don’t know for instance when he signed up although the London Gazette has a notice of his second Lieutenant appointment of the 4th December 1914 so I know it was before this. 

 

The notice on page 10303 of the London Gazette of the 4th December 1914 has him on long list of cadets and ex-cadets of the Officer Training Corps who were commissioned into the Regular Army. His commissioned was effective the 3rd December 1914 and he would have started as a Second Lieutenant.

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/28995/page/10303/data.pdf

 

The Army Lists are not necessarily the most effective way to follow an officers progress - there can be considerable time lags and moves that take the form of attachments can often go undocumented and certainly undated. A combination of the officers service file and the relevant unit's war diary is likely to give a more reliable picture. His officer file is held at Kew under the reference WO 339/3254 - https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1057201

 

1 hour ago, Brittain Foster said:

It seems in the Army Lists it is not possible to search by name so is it a case of turning page by page?

 

There may be better methods, but I start on the National Library of Scotland site by finding the relevant officer in the index at the back of the relevant edition of the Monthly or Quarterly List. I've linked to his entry in the April 1917 Monthly edition under the Bedfordshire Regiment above, so here's how I found him in the index of that edition first..

 

Searching through an edition by the select a page option requires a bit of parsing, (have you gone too far \ not far enough), but is doable without having to look at every page. If you get very close then work through page by page, but as the index is in alphabetical order a glance at first and last entries will tell you if you are on the right page.

 

996877360_HaroldFosterMay1917SelectaPagestep.png.7c9df0d9dce9767a3c72a14563ef0dd1.png

 

And when you get to the right page you will them have the column number shown against his name. For your other searches, note where two of more individuals have the same initials there will normally be something to further distinguish them. However in the case of Harold, there is only one H J B Foster listed, (right hand column) -

 

1196960430_HaroldFosterMay1917MonthlyListIndexissue.png.8e1b94530b710e9f59be99b6ba3ac82d.png

 

A bit more searching will them take you to column 1051 which in that edition is on page 678.

 

The good news is that you don't have to do that on every edition. Unless he is promoted or permanently changes his regiment there is a good chance he will be in a column near 1051 and on pages near 678.

 

Thus for example in the March 1917 British Army Monthly List, his entry under the Bedfordshire Regiment is also in column 1051 and on page 678.

https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/119984395

In February 1917 he is still shown in column 1051 under Bedfordshire Regiment but that was then on page 666.

https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/119360395

 

Hope that helps, (and makes sense  :))

 

1 hour ago, Brittain Foster said:

Also with the British newspapers (Where the torpedo entry is and where I want to look for his sporting achievements) is this subscription access? Happy to do this but wanted to make sure it is not all on findmypast/ancestry .... 

 

FindMyPast UK Library edition includes access to the British Newspaper Archive site but that you normally have to access on a library computer. Some local library services have come to an arrangment to allow remote access from home during the pandemic. If you are in the UK, once the Libraries open then most subscribe to the British Newspaper Archive and so access is free to Library members. Most also subscribe to either Ancestry or FindMyPast, and sometimes both. So could be worthwhile checking out your local library service website to see has been made available while libraries are locked down or offering a very restricted service.

 

Cheers,

Peter

 

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Brittain Foster

Thank you very very much - I am going to try and suss this out. I am also going to get his record from Kew as soon as I can. 
 

Especially helpful as I have two other WW1 relatives to do once I have found and recorded everything I can on Uncle Jack... I am surely going to get better at it as I go along...

 

I want to make sure there is a proper family record as I worry otherwise they will be forgotten. Thank you so much again - I am quite in awe of how knowledgable people are in what seems quite difficult to find needles in haystacks.

 

best regards

natalie 

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